For years, West Virginians have complained about the quality of their public schools. Whether those complaints are justified, given the nature of West Virginia culture and the state’s lack of affluence as compared with other states, is debatable.
The alternatives to public school have been homeschooling and private schools. Charter schools have been off the table — until now.
As reported by HD Media’s Ryan Quinn, the West Virginia Board of Education approved policy changes Wednesday that allow for fully online charter schools, enable an unelected board to circumvent county boards of education to open charters and open the door to 10 new charters every three years, up from three every three years.
Groups applying to open fully online charters must provide a timeline for “identifying students who are consistently not engaging in learning activities” and supporting them to “consistently engage.”
Charter schools may be opened by nonprofits if county school boards or the new state charter approval board authorize them to open. Charters may be run day to day by private companies. And charters must take part in the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Often abbreviated NAEP, it’s the biggest nationally representative test of U.S. students, and its results are sometimes useful to researchers and can help with rough state-to-state educational comparisons.
Now we see if there is demand for an online charter school. Experience during the pandemic, where most public schools relied heavily on remote learning, shows that some children thrived in an online education environment while some didn’t.
Charter schools in other states have had a mixed record in terms of educational results. But that’s true of public schools, too — here and elsewhere.
Cabell County Schools recently announced it is expanding its online offerings to allow students to learn at home while supervised by teachers and others in the public school system. If that succeeds, there may be no need for an online charter school in this area.
Or maybe there is. There may be a Jeff Bezos of the education world who is ready to upend the entire system by offering students and parents the same thing they can get now from public schools, but more of it and with greater convenience. And there undoubtedly will be experiments that fail badly.
The thing is that now parents and students have another choice. The time is coming for people who wanted that other choice to decide whether it’s desirable and whether it works.